PURNELL, Harold (1890-1982)

Modified on Mon, 15 Aug 2016 09:31 by Con — Categorized as: Biography - All, Biography - Students, Geelong College, Biography of War - World War I

PURNELL, Harold (1890-1982)

Harold Purnell was born on 3 May 1890, the son of Alexander Purnell and Elizabeth nee Anderson.

He was enrolled as a day student in 1903 with an entry address of Talbot Street, Newtown.

Only a few weeks after the outbreak of World War I he enlisted (No 172) on 18 August 1914 with the AIF and embarked for Egypt and Gallipoli on 19 October 1914 aboard HMAT A18 Wiltshire. He served with A Squadron in the 4th Australian Light Horse and was wounded in action.

David Holloway reported this incident in Hooves, Wheels and Tracks:
‘On Tuesday 1st June C Squadron had gone up into the trenches occupied by 4th Battalion to acclimatize. Young Langford's diary .... notes, 'Monday 31st May Harold Purnell was hit over the heart, the bullet passing thro' him, but it is not a serious wound' .

Harold was promoted to Lieutenant and was involved in the famous Light Horse charge at Beersheba on 31 October 1917, during which 800 Australian light horsemen showed extraordinary courage and spirit to capture a vital Turkish stranglehold.

David Holloway noted Harold Purnell’s promotion from Lieutenant along with fellow Old Collegian, L Birch, after Beersheba.

Harold Purnell died in 1982.

His older brother and Old Collegian, Captain Francis Ormond Purnell (1888-1916), was killed in action at Flers on 13 November 1916. He is buried at Bancourt British Cemetery, Flers.

His brothers, Herbert Alexander Purnell (1881-1962), William Vernon Purnell (1885-1966), Francis Ormond Purnell (1888-1916), and Dr Kenneth Claud Purnell MC (1893-1967), were also educated at Geelong College.

Sources: Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. pp 286-287 (citing David Holloway, Hooves, Wheels and Tracks: A History of the 4/19th Prince of Wales's Light Horse Regiment and its predecessors; The Pegasus; National Archives).